47 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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Lines 1-237

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Lines 1-135 Summary

Prologue and Parodos

The play opens in front of the home of Admetus, the King of Thessaly in northern Greece. Apollo enters, carrying an unstrung golden bow. He addresses himself to the audience in a short speech, in which he introduces the setting and plot of the play. Apollo explains that his father, Zeus, sent him to serve the mortal Admetus as a slave as punishment for killing the Cyclopes, the powerful one-eyed creatures who forged Zeus’s thunderbolts. The pious Admetus treated Apollo well, and as a reward, the god granted him a remarkable boon: When the time came for Admetus to die, Apollo tricked the Moirae or “Fates” into allowing him to live on “by giving the lower powers someone else to die / Instead of him” (14-5). Admetus beseeched all his friends and family to die in his place, but only his wife Alcestis agreed to do so. Now, says Apollo, the fateful day of Alcestis’s death has come.

As Apollo prepares to take his leave, Death enters. Death demands to know what Apollo is doing at the home of Admetus, accusing him of intimidation (with his bow) and seeking to “spoil the death-spirits’ privileges” (31).